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Marc Hirschi a key addition in UAE Team Emirates development plan

Hirschi
Marc Hirschi (Image credit: PhotoFizza/ UAE Team Emirates)

Marc Hirschi’s move from Team DSM to UAE Team Emirates happened quickly during the Christmas holidays, team manager Mauro Gianetti has revealed, because he didn’t want to miss out on adding the Swiss rider to his growing roster of talented young riders.

Hirschi's departure from Team DSM - formerly Team Sunweb - was announced on January 5, which stated they had "reached a settlement" with Hirschi to terminate his contract with immediate effect. 

No information was given on the reasons for the split and Hirschi signing for UAE Team Emirates was made on January 9, in a video showing him joining his new teammates at a training camp in the UAE.  

Hirschi has still to explain his reasons for leaving Team DSM. Gianetti is just happy to have the Swiss rider on the team, alongside Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, Alexander Kristoff, Davide Formolo and new signings Rafal Majka and Matteo Trentin. 

The generation of talented young riders in the team also includes Brandon McNulty, Andres Adila, Mikkel Bjerg, Alessandro Covi, and Ivo and Rui Oliveira. 

“For contractual reasons the deal was announced on January 9 but via his agent Fabian Cancellara, we’d reached a deal before New Year’s Eve. Marc Hirschi’s a big signing, I knew I couldn’t let him get away,” Gianetti told Radio Télévision Suisse

“I’m happy he’s with us: he’s a Swiss rider, he’s talented, he’s a real pro and because he got out of his preceding contract to join us, that shows he saw us as the ideal team for his development.

“His move is one of the one of the biggest transfers of the market. Chris Froome has moved to Israel Start-Up Nation but Marc is only 22 and his arrival will have a bigger impact.”   

Hirschi turned professional in 2019 after winning the U23 road race title at the UCI World Championships in Innsbruck and after a series of eye-catching displays in his neo-pro campaign, he broke through to the top of the sport in 2020, going on from his Tour de France success to win La Flèche Wallonne and podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the elite Worlds road race. He could have won other stages at the Tour de France and perhaps Liège-Bastogne-Liège if Julian Alaphilippe had not disrupted his sprint.

He is expected to join forces with Pogačar and Formolo for the Ardennes Classics and then target stages at the Tour de France while supporting Pogačar’s defence of the yellow jersey.

“He’s incredible for a 22-year-old, we saw that at the Tour de France, where he won a stage and went close to winning two others. He then won Flèche Wallonne and fought right to the end at Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Gianetti enthused. 

“He has an ability to make winning look easy, we saw at junior level and then at under-23 when he won the world title. We want to let him surprise us with what he can do. I think he can be competitive on any terrain and so we’ll also test him on some stage races. I’m sure he wants to work hard and improve even more and so it’ll be interesting to see what we can do together.

“He’ll have the backing of Tadej Pogačar in the Ardennes Classics, who is also good there. We've also got riders like McNulty, Bjerg and the others. They’re all young and talented.”

UAE Team Emirates have invested heavily in young riders, using their apparently secure and long-term funding to sign a swath of young riders. 

“During 2020 we achieved the results we’d planned for 2022, so we’re two years ahead of our project,” Gianetti said, referring to Pogačar’s Tour de France victory.  

“Now we’ve got to keep on growing and that’s why we’ve focused on young riders, starting from the foundations of the team. We want to build our own success by developing the riders, not by buying it ready-made.

“Young riders are more motivated and want to improve. They’re building their own future and so their motivation is sky high. It’s more interesting to have young riders in your team and then improve together. There’s no pressure, just a real desire to do well.”

Hirschi and his new teammates will stay in the UAE until January 22. They were given their first COVID-19 vaccines on arrival thanks to an agreement with the UAE authorities. They will have the second on January 21 to complete their vaccination. 

After a number of sponsor events and training on the flat roads of Abu Dhabi, the riders have moved inland to train in the hills, including Jebel Hafeet, the key climb of the UAE Tour. 

They will return to Europe for their season debut in Spain and France. Pogačar is expected to lead the team at the UAE Tour in February.